Editor’s Note: Ali Noorani is the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an organization based in Washington that advocates for the value of immigrants. You can follow him @anoorani. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Supreme Court announced Thursday executive actions on immigration would remain blocked
Ali Noorani: Legislative action would render the legal conversation moot and move us all forward
The immigration debate this election year is running hotter than an Arizona sidewalk in the summer. In the midst of it all, real people and real families remain in limbo.
On Thursday, a deadlocked Supreme Court offered no help. The court is stuck regarding U.S. v. Texas and President Obama’s 2014 immigration actions. Its 4-4 tie leaves the lower court’s nationwide injunction on the president’s executive actions in place.
In the months ahead, litigation will continue on the merits of the case, and we may very well see the issue return to what I hope will be a Supreme Court of nine justices. The split on Thursday only keeps a preliminary injunction in place, with the underlying lawsuit yet to be decided on the merits. Judge Andrew Hanen now must review the merits and make a final decision – which also could be appealed.
The parties also have 25 days to ask the Supreme Court to rehear the preliminary injunction itself.
In the meantime law enforcement will be forced to spend valuable resources, and our immigration system will remain fundamentally broken.
Unlike the Supreme Court, when it comes to immigration reform the American public is not at a stalemate. The people know exactly what they want. Look at polling data the Public Religion Research Institute released this morning: “More than six in ten (61%) Americans say immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be allowed a way to become citizens, provided they meet certain requirements.”
These numbers, in fact, have remained steady since early 2013. While this report does not outline specifics for the requirements involved, those most commonly discussed are learning English, passing a criminal background check, and paying a fine.
It is important to remember that the executive actions would have provided eligible undocumented immigrants only temporary relief from deportation. A new president could have done away with these actions on day one.
Furthermore, we shouldn’t lose sight of the multiple communities who stood to benefit from the implementation of these temporary provisions – whose hopes for the future are now in purgatory (at best). Nor does it help immigrants’ would-be employers, their fellow churchgoers and even their local law enforcement officers, who recognize that the trust of everyone in the community is essential to keeping all of us safe.
The programs would not have addressed any of the deeper structural problems weighing down our current immigration systems, such as visa backlogs and shortages. It would not have streamlined legal immigration in a way that allows our economy to flourish. And, of course, it would not have provided any sort of long-term stability that would help immigrants to reach their fullest potential in the United States.
Yet these are the things the American public wants.
With this missed opportunity and judicial quagmire, America’s attention turns to the November elections and to congressional Republicans.
The Democratic and Republican presumptive presidential candidates have starkly different approaches to immigrants and immigration. Secretary Clinton’s approach includes a reformed legal immigration system and a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Donald Trump’s plan is the mass deportation of the 11 million undocumented immigrants and the building of a wall along our southern border.
According to the same polling data from PRRI, 58% of Americans oppose building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, and only 21% say all immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be deported.
The real bottom line is that congressional Republicans are the X factor in all this. The court’s inability to decide underscores Congress’s responsibility to act.
In the absence of substantive direction from our nation’s highest court, what will Majority Leader McConnell do to address the needs of the business community and the plight of millions of families? What will Speaker Paul Ryan and his colleagues in the House do to fix the system and meet the demands of the American public?
Today nine House Republicans began to show the way, stating, “We are committed to fixing our broken immigration system once and for all.”
We haven’t heard the last from the courts on the president’s executive actions on immigration. But legislative action would render the legal conversation moot and move us all forward.
Congress, it’s your move.
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Ali Noorani is the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an organization based in Washington that advocates for the value of immigrants. You can follow him @anoorani. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.